Don't let exam stress get to you.
June is here and that can only mean one thing: the Leaving Cert. While the rest of us enjoy the sunshine, spare a thought for the tens of thousands of young Irish students cooped up inside working hard in preparation for their final exams.
With a few tricks and a bit of strategy, however, surviving the last few weeks of the Leaving Cert doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful.
Below, Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), shares his five tips for a successful—and anxiety-free—Leaving Cert:
Sleep at least eight hours a night
“Getting a good night’s sleep before an exam is undoubtedly the single most important thing you can do. Don’t waste time cramming until the wee hours. Not only will you wake up absolutely exhausted, you’ll have immense difficulty actually recalling any information in the exam hall.
“You need a good eight or nine hours before an exam. Close the books, shut off your phone, and get to bed early.”
Eat well and avoid caffeine
“Eating a poor diet can wreak havoc not only on your physical health, but your state of mind. As much as possible, avoid eating nutrient-sparse junk like crisps, pizzas and other greasy or fatty foods.
“In particular, lay off the caffeine. While a cup of coffee or an energy drink will give you a brief buzz, you’ll crash later. Drink too much over a period of time and your body will become dependent on it. Remember, you won’t be able to satisfy your caffeine cravings in an exam.”
Create a study plan
“While you should have done most of your study by now, you probably have some exams separated by a few days. Use this time to study sensibly. While there’s no one-size-fits-all way of doing it, consider organising your subjects by topics. Hone in on your weakest areas rather than just refreshing what you already know well.
“Some people work best revising over longer chunks of time, while others prefer to study for forty minutes then take ten- or fifteen-minute breaks. Experiment and see what works for you. Use flash cards to jog your memory, speak your notes aloud, and as much as possible write, rather than type, your notes.”
Find a quiet place
“A study plan is only as good as your study environment. Get away from noisy family members, televisions, computers, games consoles and anything else that might tempt you or cause your mind to wander. Most important of all: Put down your phone. Turn it off. Lock it away if you must.
“If you’re getting cabin fever, try studying outside. If you’re really struggling, consider setting up shop at your local library.”
“The Leaving Cert is an immensely stressful time. While you should be working hard, you shouldn’t be pushing yourself to the edge of a nervous breakdown. You need to be calm and collected on the day.
“You won’t be productive if you study for twelve hours straight, locked away like a monk in a cell. Take regular breaks and reward your work by doing something that you enjoy. Listen to music, go for a walk, and talk to your friends and family.”